Characteristics and uses of male marijuana plants

By: Daniel C. Grow

When planning a grow, it’s important to know its purpose. Knowing the sex of your marijuana plants is vital so that you don’t end up wasting any time or resources. Here we explain everything you need to know about male cannabis plants and their uses.

Marijuana is a dioecious plant species. This means that it reproduces when a male and a female plant cross through pollination. However, most cannabis seeds currently on the market are feminised, because growers prefer to have a guaranteed 100% rate of female descendants that produce seedless cannabis flowers, i.e. buds loaded with cannabinoids and terpenes.

But before feminised seeds broke into the market, cannabis growers used to use regular seeds, which produce both male and female cannabis specimens at a ratio of around 50% each. Therefore, the male cannabis plants produce male flowers that release pollen with which the female flowers are pollinated, thereby producing seeds to continue the species.

Old-school growers who had no option but to use regular seeds, needed to watch for male plants and remove them from their grows, because it isn’t pleasant to smoke buds with seeds. Besides, the female plants would otherwise focus their energy on producing those seeds rather than on producing more flowers and trichomes, which would translate into a much lower potency.

How to know if a seed is male or female?

The only way to guarantee that a seed will turn into a female plant is by using feminised seeds. These are aimed at fully eliminating the possibility of male plants developing. This means that growers no longer have to discard male plants, which saves both time and resources that would otherwise be used to look after those potentially unwanted plants.

If you use regular seeds, cannabis plants won’t show their sex during the vegetative phase: it is only at the start of the flowering period that this can be clearly identified. This phase, known as the ‘pre-flowering’, starts in nature when days become shorter, which therefore results in a change in the photoperiod.

It is at that point that you need to be really attentive: the part of the plant that you need to keep an eye on is what is commonly known as ‘axilla’, which is the union between the main stem and the branches. It is right there, on the underside, that you’ll see the flower primordia (or pre-flowers) forming, i.e. the little buds from which flowers will develop:

  • Female cannabis plants develop a small round pear-shaped sack from which two white stigmas emerge. This is the part of the pistils that collects the pollen, and which many growers commonly know as ‘little hairs’.
  • The male plants also develop a sack but without any stigmas. You can clearly see that the flowers are made up of five sepals, which are the parts that form the calyx that will later open to expose the pollen covered stamens.

Therefore, the key to figuring out if a marijuana plant is male or female lies in keeping an eye out for the formation of any stigmas (or little hairs). Later on, during the flowering phase, male flowers open, showing an internal structure that resembles a small bunch of bananas. These are the stamens which will eventually spread their pollen to fertilise the female flowers.

On the other hand, female cannabis plants, after showing their female sex with the first stigmas, will generate clusters of these flowers with more ‘little hairs’ that will then start to get covered in resin glands (trichomes). This continues until they finally accumulate in the form of buds which can sometimes reach incredible dimensions.

Uses of the male marijuana plant

Although the appearance of male cannabis plants in their crops can be unwelcome news for some growers, it is important to remember that males have multiple applications and can therefore be very useful too:

  • Creation of new hybrids: Male plants are an essential tool for the creation of new crosses between your favourite strains. When it comes to applying breeding techniques, it is important to carefully select the male plant that is going to be used for pollination purposes, as this will pass on its genes (and therefore its features) to the resulting plants. There are several key parameters to consider when choosing your best male specimens, such as vigour, morphological structure, or pollen production capacity.
  • Fibre extraction for textile purposes: There is a whole industry based around the production of hemp fibre. Male specimens are normally used because their fibre is softer and more resistant than that produced by female plants. This makes it ideal for the manufacturing of more delicate textile products (clothing, table linens, etc.).
  • Seed production for food use: Hemp seeds are considered to be a superfood that has become popular in recent years thanks to its multiple nutritional properties. These include high omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acid contents. To be able to produce these seeds, a male plant is required to act as pollinator.
  • Use of their roots for therapeutic purposes: The roots of the male plants showcase beneficial properties that can be interesting for the treatment of certain ailments. Nowadays we know that the roots contain friedelin, a natural antioxidant which helps protect the liver; epifriedelinol, which can work as an anti-tumour agent; and pentacyclic triterpene, a secondary metabolite that contains antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.

When to cut the male marijuana plants?

The perfect cutting time for your male plants will depend on the purpose of your cannabis crop and, therefore, the final use for the plants. If you want to harvest seedless buds, the answer is clear: cut as soon as you can identify their sex. Remember that you can identify the males long before their flowers ripen, which is when they pose a real risk for your precious harvest.

However, if you’re looking to cross your favourite phenos, you must wait until pollination is completed before cutting the males. This can be immediately after the females have been pollinated, or you can always wait a few more days if you want to do a second pollination round with the pollen from the flowers that still haven’t fully ripened.

Ultimately, male marijuana plants are a potential threat to your crop if you’re mainly after consumable buds; but they can also be a great ally if your objective is the hybridisation and breeding of new strains. So now that you’ve learnt more about their characteristics and applications, you’ll know what to do if you come across one of them.

Kannabia Seeds Company sells to its customers a product collection, a souvenir. We cannot and we shall not give growing advice since our product is not intended for this purpose.

Kannabia accept no responsibility for any illegal use made by third parties of information published. The cultivation of cannabis for personal consumption is an activity subject to legal restrictions that vary from state to state. We recommend consultation of the legislation in force in your country of residence to avoid participation in any illegal activity.

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